“ALIEN’S ROMANCE – Allowed To Marry While Waiting Trial”
That was the headline in the Manchester Evening News on 16 November 1914.
An engineer named Charles Ziemann, alleged to be a German, was accused of giving false particulars to the registration office. He was arrested on the Thursday, due to be married on the Friday, to a young woman at Porthleven, and under the circumstances, the police decided that the wedding should not be postponed. Accompanied by an officer, Charles “was allowed to motor to Porthleven where the wedding took place.”
Charles Fredrick Ziemann (Carl Friedrich Theo Ziemann) was born to a German father and Russian mother in Tiflis, (now Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia). In his early life Charles travelled to Munich, Germany to study engineering and later he worked on marine engine development with the company owned by Herr Diesel.
Porthleven, the most southerly harbour in England, had an internationally known boat-building reputation. When the Hudson Bay Company of Canada commissioned Kitto’s to build two boats they sent Charles Ziemann to oversee the building of the “Fort Churchill”and later the “Fort York”. Ziemann was sent to supervise the fitting of the Bollinger Marine Diesel Engines and then join the crews sailing the boats to their Hudson’s Bay destination.
In 1913 within hours of the newly-complete Fort Churchill starting her 3,000 mile journey, the topsail sheet came apart, fell over the side and the propellor picked it up so the crew had to beach the boat and repair the drive shaft before they could continue with this maiden voyage. The ship’s log records passing icebergs some of which were several miles in circumference. This voyage took place only a year after two Porthleven lads had been lost on the sinking Titanic when it was struck by a similar iceberg.
A “Press News Bulletin, Winnipeg, Saturday January 17 1914 proclaimed:
HUDSON’S BAY TRADER IN FROM YORK FACTORY
Charles Ziemann, Hudson’s Bay trader of London, England was in Winnipeg today having arrived from a 30 days’ trip through the ice and snow fields of the far north to reach this city from York Factory about 500 miles away. Mr Ziemann is leaving for London this afternoon. He had a camera with him on the trip and took some interesting snapshots. The picture of rugged health, Mr Ziemann has been following the business of visiting the outlying Hudson’s Bay trading posts in all parts of the world for practically all his life.” Accompanied by a native American guide with sleds and five Huskies, Charles had lived out in the snow, lying down at night amid a patch of fir trees when they could be found, and sometimes waking early in the morning to find two feet of snow on top of him. When he was interviewed he remarked “Tis a healthy life”.
After such an exciting early life, Ziemann appeared to settle down. He married his Porthlevener in November 1914 and, between 1915 and 1929, he and his wife produced 6 children with Ziemann becoming a British citizen in January 1920. However, he appeared in court in 1926, then on several other occasions and again in 1933 when the local newspaper described him as a “well-known Porthleven motor dealer”. His misdemeanour was selling a car, taking money to obtain insurance for his customer but failing to do so. Part of the defence put forward was that he “went to Porthleven in 1912, he was not well educated and was not perfectly at home with the English Language”. It was also mentioned that in 1932 he had been fined for driving a motor car without a reflecting mirror and in February 1933 for allowing a person without a licence (his son) to drive his car. He was fined a total of £9 10s and given two months to pay.
By 1934 matters were worse, Ziemann was charged with various motor offences including driving without insurance, driving whilst disqualified and stealing “two motor car clocks”. “Mr C J Cooke, for defendant, said that the facts surrounding the case were most distressing. Mrs Ziemann and the six children had been living under the most appallingly difficult conditions, and were now receiving help from the Public Assistance Committee. There was no doubt that Ziemann was suffering from locomotor ataxy which rendered him unfit to drive a motorcar and impaired the character of the patient. Eventually a committal order was made to run concurrently with his sentence and “the prison doctor would have an opportunity of enquiring into defendant’s mental state”.
In a rosier version of his life Charles is spoken of as “one of the first businessmen to bring a motorcar to Cornwall”. He is credited with fitting the first engines in some of the fishing boats and said to have been much in demand, due to his marine engineering knowledge.
Sadly in the 1939 register Ziemann is not with his family in Porthleven but in Bodmin Mental Hospital and by 1941 he was dead at the relatively young age of 55.